What stands between mundane everyday life and tomorrow’s hangover? La Noche, screened at the 12th XPOSED International Queer Film Festival with the theme “Connecting the dots” in Berlin’s Kino Movimento, provides a compelling cinematic experience and delineates the festival motto in a very interesting way. The movie narrates the sexual adventures of a man who navigates the prostitution underworld of Buenos Aires. For company, he has only drugs, prostitutes, and the incessant solitude that pushes him time and again towards the next fuck, the next shot, the next adventure.
In the film, Martin’s nocturnal wanderings and morning-afters are crudely exposed by director and lead-actor Edgardo Castro. We are lead on a trip through the character’s sexual desires and party side-effects, depicted with graphic scenes of sex and hangovers. Castro puts together heady snapshots of Martin’s wanderings in rundown hotels and gay clubs, captured primarily with a handheld camera for an irresistible dystopian voyeuristic experience.
However it is not only Martin’s life in the spotlight; as most of his partners are sex-workers, the viewer also has the chance to see these urban figures from a unique perspective. Martin enquires – here and for much of the movie the line between Castro and Martin can be difficult to see – of his sexual partners details about their personal lives and experiences. By exposing Martin’s weaker moments alongside fragments of the sex-workers’ stories, the movie disperses the focus on the balance of power expected in this relationship. The vulnerabilities of both parties are levelled, allowing the viewer to better understand the decisions that lead to their current circumstances.
Another strong point of the movie is in its casting of non-actors, mostly natives from Buenos Aires’s queer fauna; from a shy young male streetwalker starring at the darkest corner of the street who hesitates to talk about his extra-professional life, to a transgender prostitute with a strong porteño accent. Their idiosyncrasies allow us to taste a cinematic reality built upon genuine characters. From this universe the director, backed by talented amateur actors, skillfully extracts authentic and fluid performances rooted in personal experience. This directorial choice, combined with hand-held camerawork, dialogue interspersed with awkwardly silent moments and vertiginous long-takes may absorb viewers into a hyper-realistic fly-on-the-wall impression of someone else’s intimate life.
As Martin continues with his new adventures, not only does his partner count increase, but also the diversity of locations and the gender range of said partners. Also increasing is his latent loneliness, frustration, and the difficulty to genuinely connect with people. Instead of romanticizing hedonism and celebrating the libido of a character who is always willing to play harder than he might have the day before, the movie highlights some unpleasant aspects to these encounters, such as the difficulty faced in reconciling desire and affection in relationships mediated by money and toxic inebriation. Martin strives for intense experiences, but no matter how far he goes he is bound to his reality by an inescapable loneliness. Minutes after an orgy scene, one can hear a talk-show host on the television speaking to the importance of being in a relationship, while one character eats pizza alone. The atmosphere seems to cradle Martin in a type of wandering, incurable and almost cyclical solitude.
Moreover, the film casts an appealing perspective on our generation. Portraying ‘crazy nights loaded with drugs and prostitution in a vivid metropole’ is not exactly a novelty in queer cinema. Yet a middle-aged protagonist as the epicenter of these scenes is not as popularly explored as the narrative of a teen or twenty-something exploring their limits through sex and drugs. In this sense, La Noche proposes a re-framing of these typical features by bringing them onto a nearly foreign land, where they do not serve as some sort of dangerous toy but rather as a part of real life.